Think of the amount of time you will save if your weekly exercise routine could be condensed down to 3 minutes a week. Sound ridiculous? Apparently not according to Dr Michael Mosley who produced the documentary for BBC2, “Horizon: The Truth About Exercise.” A few relatively short bursts of intense exercise, known as High Intensity Training (HIT), amounting to only a few minutes a week, can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of hours of conventional exercise.
To be clear, we’re not talking about literally only 3 minutes a week. The actual amount of time required is slightly longer (around 20 minutes), with the majority of that consisting of warm-up and gentle exercise. You get on an exercise bike and warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, and then go flat out for 20 seconds. You then repeat those steps two more times and you’re done.
By going flat out, you’re achieving your maximum heart rate which puts your body into a position where it activates 80% of the body’s muscle cells, compared to 20-40% during conventional exercise. It’s also better at tapping your stores of glucose via the glycogen stored in your muscles.
The benefits of such exercise include improvements in insulin sensitivity and aerobic fitness, which in turn improve general health. However, how much benefit you get from it may depend on your genes, with a recent international study showing that 15% made huge improvements in their fitness while 20% showed no improvement at all. The latter group was exercising correctly, but it wasn’t making them aerobically fitter.
So where does all of this leave us? The idea of a super-short 3 minutes a week exercise regime that delivers the same health benefits is tantalizing for those with busy lifestyles. However, the important thing to remember is that exercise is mandatory for health. Make sure you keep moving every day. You may not necessarily have to do any high-intensity training as suggested here, or spend hours and hours in the gym, but you do have to move.